Stockholm-Helsinki in a deluxe cabin onboard Tallink-Siljas M/S Silja Serenade


Had a bit of luck a few weeks ago when booking a cruise to Helsinki with one of the infamous Finlandsbåtar (Finland ferries) that cruise the Baltic Sea. 

After finishing our purchase I got a confirmation email for the wrong dates from what I had booked. I contacted the cruise company, Tallink-Silja, who explained that due to some kind of glitch, we had booked cabins that were already sold out. Fortunately, Tallink-Silja were friendly enough to compensate us with an upgrade to their deluxe cabin so we could go on our prefered dates.
One of the main issues (or the USP depending on your trips purpose) with going with any of the Finland ferries is the fact that you can drink the inexpensive stuff bought in the duty free shop directly after your purchase, meaning there are cabin parties all over the ship. That, and the lacking sound-proofing between cabins can make the trip a bit of a struggle as you can’t really escape the party anywhere.

Fortunately Tallink-Silja has adressed this to some extent with closed hallways depending on cabin category, meaning your key card can’t enter other hallways than the one you’re staying in.

We stayed in the deluxe cabin area of the ship, where there are only two-bed cabins, meaning the party crews stayed elsewhere.

The deluxe cabin
Where the standard cabins are good enough to get a couple of hours of sleep, the deluxe cabins are more hotel room-like. The cabin is 14 square meters with a good-sized window giving great ocean views from the 11th floor. Included is also a fridge with complimentary drinks (2 small 20 cl bottles of sparkling wine, 2 beers, 2 cokes, 2 Fanta, and one bottle each of sparkling and still water). It wasn’t replenished during our trip, we did get our beds made though day two, which does not happen in lower cabin classes (I’ve done the trip many times in C, B and A cabins). Instead of bunk beds there is a decently comfortable double bed (queen size I guess), there is a flatscreen tv of decent size and with good reception and Swedish and Finnish channels. Ship’s free wifi worked okay in the cabins, but the signal is much better in the public areas.




The main change for me compared to traveling in lower cabin classes was that this cabin was actually pretty nice to hang out in. The sound-proofing is not much better (if any), but our neighbours were quite silent. We probably spent three hours day two just watching tv, eating chips and resting.


A bonus attached to the cabin is also the ’luxury breakfast’ in Tavolata restaurant. The luxury being coffee and tea being brought to your table instead of you getting it yourself, and a complimentary glass of prosecco, or a bellini. The self-service buffet is good enough, comparable to a 3-star hotel or similar, with decent bread, charcuterie, eggs, Karelian pies, fresh fruit, pastries and bland juice.


Although this post is mostly about the deluxe cabins, as I did not find much information myself about them, I of course need to mention the food we had as well. 🙂

We had dinner the first night in Serenade’s fancy restaurant; Bon Vivant. The restaurant is quite popular, we made a reservation a week before our cruise and got the last table according to the booking agent. The restaurant has a Nordic theme, and menus are changed a couple of times per year. We had the Tommy Myllymäki menu earlier this year when we went to Estonia, and this time it was Finnish chef Jukka Nykänen’s menu.

Wild duck with apples.

Beetroot marinated salmon tartare with truffle mayonnaise.


Pike perch, potato and whey.


The vegan starter was according to my dinner companion one of the best ever.

Day two we swopped the fine-dining for a Finland ferry must.


No trip without a buffet! I managed four rounds of food (and a couple of glasses of wine on tap), but only the picture of round one was publishable. 🙂

3 days of eating in Madrid, Spain

Just got back from a short, fun and busy trip to the great busy Spanish capital Madrid. Unfortunately the image quality is not that great since I only brought my phone. But nevertheless, below are the (mostly) great restaurants I visited.

O’Grove restaurant

Most restaurants that has a man or woman hand slicing pata negra when you enter turn out to be great places in my experience. The thin, nutty and fatty pata negra ham did not dissapont at all to start our meal.

Pulpo, eg. squid grilled and seasoned with smokey paprika.

Grilled seafood. Langoustines, prawns, crayfish, clams, razor mussels and lemon. So good.

Our main was a perfectly sized (after the enourmos amount of tapas to start) beef fillet, served with only a few chips and piementos de padrón.

O’Grove restaurant website

El Buey restaurant

Surprisingly, you got to cook your own steak on a hot plate set in front of you, something I did not realise while booking. This is the steak, pre-grilling. By some reason I took no post-grilling pics. The meat above was really good and was served together with some really good chips/fries and a nice, slightly acidic sauce to baste it in while grilling.

Starters were handed out before the meat and consisted of salad with a mayonnaisy dressing; a ratatouille-like tomato and vegetable stew topped with quail eggs, and deep-fried potato baskets. The same baskets were included with the blood sausage scrambled eggs.

El Buey restaurant website

La Lonja del Mar

Despite being the fancy restaurant of the trip, I was a bit dissapointed with La Lonja del Mar. Although the dishes were okay, they did not at all impress. Above is the two best dishes, a Donistiarra style hake with clams and Torrija, a Spanish version of ‘French toast’ served with missing cherries and ‘Amarena’ ice cream. Tasty enough, but by no means great, unfortunately.

La Lonja del Mar website

Bodegas Pablo Morate winery

Our visit to Bodegas Pablo Morate, a small family winery just outside of Madrid was a highlight of our stay. We got to try some excellent wines (unfortunately not the 101 year old bottle above) and got served some of the best tapas I’ve had. Extra good because Pablo Morate’s mom, the cook of above feast, joined us and told us about the food and even gave us the recipe for the incredibly tasty Spanish tortilla omelette.

Bodegas Pablo Morate website

Tapas tour in  the Salamanca district
Our last evening we decided upon a walking dinner with stops at three acclaimed tapas restaurants in the Barrio de Salamanca where we stayed at the Novotel Madrid Centro, which was pretty good.

La Castela restaurant

Cold but quite tasty shrimps to start the evening.

Pizza-like sandwiches with cheese, grilled and peeled peppers as well as ham. Went down well with a glass of red.

La Castela website

La Monteira restaurant

Might not look that exciting, but a quite nice little nibble in the form of deep-fried breaded pork.

Prawns, deep-fried and supposed to eat whole.

Seared tuna with a tasty dipping sauce. One of the highlights of the tapas we were served.

La Monteira Website

Restaurant Castelados


We got served a plate like above at each of the places visited. A mix of whole deep-fried fishes – to be eaten with bone and all, piementos de padrón and some crunchy stuff I can’t remember.


We had lots of sandwiches. This one was quite inventive, being the vessel of one of Madrid’s most famous dishes; oxtail stew. By this point I was so full, but still managed to chew one and a half of these guys down.

Restaurante Castelados website

The roof at Hotel ME (Radio), Madrid


As a bonus, we also visited the cool rooftop club/bar ‘The Roof at ME’. Not a very high up skybar (7th floor), but a really nice place to dance off the tapas from earlier, have a few nice drinks and admire the (although limited) view. Admission was 20 euro, but included a drink, including cocktails.

The roof at ME website

Breakfast at Novotel Madrid Centro


A breakfast plate at Novotel Madrid Centro, where we stayed. This is just picked up from the buffet, but I would like to mention it because of the nice assortment of charcuterie/coldcuts that they served. The watery juice above is some kind of watered down mango juice I mistakenly took. Fortunately they also had proper fresh squeezed orange juice that was much better.

Novotel Madrid Centro website

Mercado de San Miguel


We also managed to make a quick stop at Mercado de San Miguel food hall in the central parts of town. During the 10-minute visit I had both the above duck foie gras pincho with onion compote and fig jam (I think), as well as churros dipped in hot chocolate. Mmmm……

Merca de San Miguel website

Madrid, hit or miss?
It was a very short visit to the Spanish capital, but the food was great, the people friendly and the city very pretty. I’d love to go back soon to explore some more.

Delicious lunch at Leib Resto ja Aed in Tallinn

Visited the Estonian capital Tallinn earlier this Summer. We went to a really nice restaurant called Leib ja Aed, and I’d thought I’d share some pictures from the very delicious lunch we had there. Above, and served before the meal was a very delicious traditional Estonian black bread with chive butter.

Carrot tartare.

Slow cooked pork ribs with jus and vegetables was really good.

59 °C Siberian sturgeon fillet from Härjanurme with green vegetables and butter sauce.

Crème brûlée with black bread, paired with a Pearu IPA made by Leib Resto ja Aed themselves. Probably the best brulee I’ve ever had.

“Rhubarb rhubarb”. Rhubarb pannacotta, honey oat milk cookie crumble, mint, violet and rhubarb compote.

A really good lunch, and quite affordable too. We paid about €90 with drinks for a shared starter and one main and dessert each.

Leib ja Aeds website

Where to eat in Bologna (and why I gained 3 kilos in 3 days)


La Grassa, or the fat one, is the nickname of the Italian city of Bologna, lovingly named so by the rest of Italy, because of its, well fatty, cuisine. You could also call me the fat one, as I gained 3 kilos or about 6.5 pounds during my three days in Bologna recently.

So what is it that makes the cuisine of Bologna, the capital of the region of Emilia Romagna so good, that you just can’t stop eating while visiting. I’ll tell you what.

Mortadella.
The fatty sausage-meets-ham mortadella is one of Bolognas most famous foods. In Northern America, and probably in some other places too there is a similar thing called Bologna sausage, or ‘baloney‘. Mortadella is a sausage made of pork, with at least 15 percent of small fat cubes incorporated into it, which makes it remarkably delicious. Above is mortadella, salami, mozzarella, bread, cappuccino and some other breakfast stuff served at our hotel, Hotel Touring, which was pretty nice.
Hotel touring


Piadina.
These delicious quesadilla-y (sorry Italians) fried flatbreads are made out of a dough that includes lardo, which is pig’s fat. Okay, sometimes the lard is substituted with olive oil. Above is a piadina at nice wine bar Vineria Favalli, stuffed with bresaola (air cured beef), goat’s cheese and rucola/arugula.

Burrata.
A very delicious burrata cheese (sort of a runny mozzarella) served caprese style, meaning with tomatoes and basil. Maybe not that particularly Bolognese, but very, very good. This was at the same place as above, that is Vineria Favalli.
Vineria Favalli

Gelato. 
The first one is from Stefino, which makes both crazy ice cream flavours such as wasabi, as well as more traditional ones like the one above which was gianduia and raspberry respectively.
Gelateria Stefino


Gelato from Zanarini just next to Piazza Maggiore in the center of Bologna. Above are lemon and hazelnut flavours.
Caffé Zanarini


Cold cuts and tagliatelle al ragú at Trattoria Da Me Ancoranoi.
The dinner at to me highly anticipated Trattoria Da me was really something. We started with a platter of antipasti that featured an assortment of mixed cold cuts such as mortadella and salami, as well as deep-fried “crescentine” bread pockets, runny local cheese, pickles and fried onions. Mm-mm-mm.
Being a huge fan of the sacrilegious bastardisation of Bologna’s national dish, spaghetti bolognese, this was paradise to me. Tagliatelle al ragú is the original version of what is lovingly known as for instance spag bol in most other parts of the world, and the above version, which I had at Trattoria Da me is absolutely the best I’ve had. Including my own which I’m usually quite pleased with. The tagliatelle pasta was out of this world, the sauce was thick, meaty and very firm, and the parmesan cheese the natural binding-everything-together component. So. Good.
Trattoria Da Me


Pizza.
We had a fantastic pizza experience at Regina Sofia, just off Piazza Maggiore. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which actually was in an alley, adding to the Italian experience. The pizzas were ‘Napoli style’, meaning thicker and doughier than usual thin crust pizza. Above is a capricciosa with fior di latte (mozzarella-like, made with cow’s milk) cheese, cotto (cooked ham), mushrooms, artichokes and small olives. It was so good. As everything else in Bologna.
Pizzeria Regina Sofia


Aperol Spritz.
Our hotel, Touring, had a rooftop bar called Terrazza Mattuiani where you could watch the sunset, eat some snacks, aperitivo, and drink aperol spritz. The only problem is that you need to pay €10 if you’re a hotel guest (includes a drink and snacks) or €15 if you’re a walk-in guest. Worth it in my mind, but more expensive than most other places in the city we visited. They do lack the views though.
Terrazza Mattuiani

One of the arcades for which Bologna is famous. There is actually 40 kilometers of them around the city, protecting its visitors and residents from the elements. First constructed in the late middle ages, and adding a lot of charm to the strolling which hopefully removes some of the mortadella or pasta weight gained.


Lasagne verde and tortellini in brodo.
Finally, Bologna is also famous for two dishes we had at a fantastic little restaurant called Al Sangiovese. The first one is lasagne verde which consists of green (spinach) pasta sheets, bechamel sauce and ragú (meat sauce). The other one is tortellini in brodo, or small pasta pockets filled with minced pork and served in a flavoursome and quite light broth. A sprinkling of parmesan wasn’t to be turned down either. Both dishes were delicious, especially washed down with a nice glass of Sangiovese wine.

Pre-flight dinner at Pontus in the Air at Stockholm Arlanda Airport


I visited Pontus in the Air, Stockholm Arlanda airport’s sort of fancy restaurant, on the way to Bologna recently.

It’s a welcome addition to Terminal 5 (post security) where there are not that many good options for a good meal.

Pontus in the Air is named after owner Pontus Frithiof who runs a couple of restaurants in and around Stockholm city, for instance the local branch of Burger & Lobster. The ambition is to serve good quality food to travelers, be it breakfast or dinner. They, in contrast to the other airport eateries have their own kitchen, and they also have a quite large wine cellar.

Lots of fancy wine
Since they don’t have a menu of their wine online, a took a shot of the current (July 2017) by the glass wine list which you can find below.

Tasty food
We had the burger, and the shrimp sandwich, as well as a decently priced half bottle of Henriot champagne. Both were actually great. The burger was juicy and cooked to a perfect medium while the shrimp sandwich had a good pile of fresh, sweet shrimps with a tasty smokey mayo. Fries are always important, and Pontus’ did not dissapoint, especially not when dipped in the to the burger accompanying truffle mayo. There was also supposed to be fresh truffle on the burger, but I couldn’t taste any. My guess, probably due to summer truffles which are usually quite tasteless in my mind.

 

A nice place for a relaxed pre-flight meal or drink
Pontus is a very nice place to pay a visit to if you don’t mind to fork out a little. It’s not that much more expensive than other food and drink options in the airport either, and compared to what I’ve tasted – far better. Until 2017-12-31 I learned (and used succesfully) that you get 10 percent off the bill with the ‘code’ “travel news”. I mentioned it to the waiter before ordering and he went to check with a colleague and then took 10 percent off our total bill, simple as that.

What to eat in Visby on Gotland

Recently spent three days on the beautiful island of Gotland, just a short flight south east of Stockholm (or a shortish ferry ride).

Since my time on the island was quite limited, a food agenda was needed. Even though the island of Gotland and its main city Visby (where the airport is) are quite small in population numbers (all island is approximately 60 000), the number of visitors from both mainland Sweden and abroad means there’s plenty of good restaurants, at least during summer. In fact popular mainland restaurants such as Surfers (despite what the name might imply they serve Sichuan food) and Supper (South American:ish) have local branches in Visby. Below is what I managed to shovle down during my short trip.

Surfers Visby
First up was a Sichuan dinner at medium prized Surfers. Dishes are all 88 sek (2017) or roughly $10. We were advised to share 6-8 among the two of us. Everything was really tasty and service was great. There was quite a wait for a table so a reservation is adviced, at least in July when we went.

Surfers’ website

Dumplings.

Spicy (really spicy) fried chicken in red chilli oil.

Prawn meatballs with coriander, lettuce leaves and a tasty dipping sauce.

Five spice ribs. Falling of the bone tender, sweet and spicy at the same time. Mmm.

Pork belly and coriander salad. Sort of like a banh mi without the bread.

Scallops in XO-sauce. Fishy in a good way. Perfectly cooked scallops.

Sesame chicken with cucumber and deep fried tofu. Delicious.

Creperie & Logi
Lunch at Creperie & Logi. Awesome crepes or galettes with in above case skagenröra meaning a mix of shrimp, mayo, dill and usually creme fraiche. Also there was cheese, bleak roe, rucola and lemon. Sooo good. Price was about 200 sek or $22.

Creperie & Logi

Café Gula Huset
When on Gotland, a Gotlandic saffron pancake (made with rice porridge) served with whipped cream and salmbärssylt (dewberry jam) is sort of mandatory. We had ours at Café Gula Huset (the yellow house café) and it was awesome. Can’t remember the price more than it was not hideously expensive.

Café Gula Huset

Mille Lire
By chance I spotted Mille Lire on Instagram a short while before leaving for Gotland with a comment such as “Best pizza on Gotland”. Being a huge pizza lover, I naturally had to pay them a visit. Mille Lire comes from the Italian phrase for “some change” asked by the owner to his mother so he could get some pizza after school while being a child back in Italy (if I recall correctly). According to Google it means something like a “thousand dollars” though. The prize of a pizza at Mille Lire is actually close to that (oh well), being almost borderline excessively expensive with 160 or so sek for a pizza. But it is also indeed very good. And, you also get a 20 sek reduction if you do take away. I had a ‘Norcina’ with provola cheese, mozzarella, tomato and fresh salsiccia which was molto bene.

Mille Lire Visby

Glassmagasinet Visby
After pizza, what comes more natural than ice cream, right? A visit to Glassmagasinet in Visby’s harbour treated us to some nice local ice cream. Above is one scoop each of chocolate-peanut, and local flavours saffron and honey. Trivia is that Glassmagasinet is Europe’s largest ice cream bar, at least according to themselves. It’s not a huge place however, so the crown should be relatively easily up for grabs.

Glassmagasinet Visby

Brooklyn Visby
My last day on “öijn” as mainland Swedes affectionally ridicule the local pronounciation of “ön” meaning “the island” was on the 4th of July which is sort of a big day in a land slightly west (as in an 8 hour flight) of Sweden. Hence, a burger felt appropriate. More so because the venue was named Brooklyn (which is basically where you end up after the 8 hour flight). The burger at Brooklyn Visby was surprisingly good to be honest and came with fries and a nice truffle dip. The bread was made in a local bakery and the meat perfectly cooked. Prices were okay with roughly 120 sek for a burger. Minus points for forcing us to a dark corner bar table despite the place being nearly empty (and stayed that way till we left).

Brooklyn Visby

Supper Visby
And finally there was Supper. As in supper at Supper. At Supper (sorry), which is a restaurant with a party vibe the focus, as so many places these days, is on “share food”. We were advised to share four to five dishes on the two of us and decided to go for four. Food is sort of South American-Mexican-Tex Mex-y and relatively decently priced.

Pork belly tacos.

One of Supper’s signatures, their sweet potato fries that are crispier than anywhere else I’ve been. Topped with coriander and parmesan cheese they are delicious.

Tuna tartare with avocado, soy sauce mayo and cassava crisps.

Steak tartare made with chopped flank steak meaning it was a little bit tougher than regular ground tartare (but still delicious) served with peanuts, mustard seeds and mayo. Worked like a charm wih the not-included sweet potato fries.

Supper’s chilli had been slow-cooked for five hours in beer and chocolate and came with a pretty little ‘egg’ of whipped (?) sour cream and corn crisps. Like the rest of Supper’s food it’s very tasty even though it’s not terribly creative.

Supper Visby

5 days of food and adventures in amazing Georgia

Just got back from a five day trip to the amazing little country of Georgia (not the U.S. state) nestled between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus. I’ve been wanting to go to Georgia for quite some time. The reasons for it being the scenic countryside, Tbilisi as a city, rumours of friendly people, and most of all; the Georgian cuisine.

We flew Air Baltic from Riga, which were pretty decent apart from the final leg on our return to Sweden when I got stuck next to a space-stealing seat neighbour on Air Baltic’s cramped Q400.

 

Tbilisi is mostly a beautiful city, as can be seen on the Old Tbilisi building above.

We also took a day trip to Northern Georgia and Mount Kazbek, about a three hour drive from Tbilisi. Due to two (!) flat tires, either by unfortune or lacking maintenance from our tour operator, the whole day took forever to get through. We were picked up at 9.40 am and was back in town around 10 pm. Nevertheless, the trip was actually worth it, despite most of the day was spent on the road.

Our first stop: Ananuri fortress, situated about 70 kilometers from Tbilisi.


The main attraction for the trip, apart from amazing mountainous scenery for a good part of the trip, was the Gergeti Trinity Church, situated at almost 2200 meters height, and still surrounded by massive Caucasus mountains towering over it. To get there we took a four wheel driven jeep from Stepantsminda to reach the Gergeti Trinity Church. After a 30 minute off-road drive we reached the church, and my god what a place it was. Probably top five of the coolest places I’ve ever been, and that’s despite that they, not sure how, actually has rolled up an ugly little food truck selling burgers just outside the beautiful church.


Mount Kazbek, 5074 meters tall as seen from the Gergeti Trinity Church.

 

The following day, back in Tbilisi, we visited the Dry Bridge Market where everything from Soviet memorabilia to knives, old army surplus, wine jars and cutlery are sold. A fascinating place, for me perhaps more for the ambience than the actual shopping.

Jack London restaurant Tbilisi
After the shopping, more food was needed. The name Jack London did not sound too promising, but the menu looked nice and the food on the other diner’s plates did too.

We ordered a sulguni cheese (the cheese used in khachapuris) stuffed kabab and chicken shashlik, both served with mild raw sliced onion. The fries at this place looked great, I still regret not having them.

 

Since I try to visit as many new and different countries as possible, I of course had to visit neighbouring Armenia. Through Envoy Tours, we booked a “de-tour to Armenia” that took us through the green Lore region of Northern Armenia. I had not really understood just how beautiful Armenia would be with its rolling green hills, canyons and monasteries, some of them constructed in the 10th century. That’s pretty old. During our tour we visited Sanahin and Haghbat (or Haghpat) monasteries situated along the Debed canyon, both of them Unesco World Heritage sites and built somewhere around 966. We also briefly visited the old factory town Alaverdi with abandoned factories, train cars and cranes. Felt like something out of a zombie movie, very cool. Our last sight of the trip was akhtala fortress-monastery which was as old and cool as the two previous, but not a UNESCO world heritage site. Finally, before going back to Georgia and Tbilisi we stoped for lunch at a local family’s home. Sat down around a table with mile-long views of the valley and mountains below the 12 or so of us were served delicious home-cooked Armenian food. We started with a couple of vegetable dishes such as a carrot fritter, different pickled vegetables, bread, cheeses, spinach fried with eggs and fresh vegetables from the area. For main we had a great grilled pork, served with raw sliced onions and thick deep fried potato slices. An excellent meal in an equally excellent setting. Also bonus points to Envoy Tours for including this stop instead of just feeding us in a touristy place somewhere along the way.

A very cool tour that was quite affordable and with a great flexible and knowledgeable guide. You can find Envoy Tours website here.

Then it was time to fly back, but not before cashing in my drink voucher I received upon checking in at Mercure Tbilisi Old Town which’s sky bar was to be the last we saw of Tbilisi before heading back home.

So in summary, wow, what a place Georgia is. It’s beautiful, the food is amazing, the prices are low and you can go to an off the beaten track country like Armenia over the day. Now I’m really keen to keep exploring the rest of the region. All the good restaurants we visited are posted after this post. To just keep on reading to get inspired to visit one of my new favourite countries. 🙂

Japanese style curry at Curry House CoCo Ichibanya in Shinjuku

One of the days in Tokyo we had been walking for ages in the rain. We were cranky, tired and hungry. That is usually not an ideal situation to start discussing where to eat. We stood outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building when it struck me; “Curry, I want Japanese curry”. After a quick look at Google maps, it was almost to good to be true, we were a block from one of the higher ranked curry places in Tokyo, the interestingly named “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya” which is part of a chain with the same name. After a approximately 30 second walk, we found ourselves in a small curry smelling paradise.

Japanese curry is a gravy like sauce flavoured with curry, served on top of rice and usually paired with some kind of deep-fried protein. We opted for deep-fried chicken with our curry which came with pickles, rice and mentioned curry sauce. The food was hot, savoury, crunchy, salty and just plain delicious. Price was really good too, and we left a lot happier.

Price ($) and website
I honestly can’t remember more than it was very affordable. They have an English website with a menu that you can find here. We had lunch at their Shinjuku location close to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (that by the way has free entry) and the Park Hyatt Hotel. Shinjuku station’s main hall is a 5-10 minute walk away.

Two really good tonkatsu restaurants we visited in Japan

One of my favourite Japanese dishes is tonkatsu. Tonkatsu or panko crusted deep-fried pork cutlets is a dish similar to a schnitzel with juicy pork covered by a crunchy panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) crust. 

During our recent trip to Japan, we had tonkatsu twice; once at Wako, where we went last time in Tokyo, and once at Maisen, a place I’ve been reading about a lot and what usually show up when you google “Tokyo’s best tonkatsu”.

Wako tonkatsu in Kyoto Station
We went to Wako in Kyoto Station, situated on the upper floors of the Isetan department store inside the station. Bonus trivia is that you can go outside from the restaurant floor where Wako is and up a couple of stairs/escalators to reach a nice rooftop area with views over Kyoto, although with a wall in the way of proper photos.

At Wako we opted to try one of the more expensive premium versions of pork for our tonkatsu. I believe the cost was around 1800 jpy, meaning roughly $16. According to the staff, it was juicier with a higher fat content and hence slightly more expensive. After a round of frosty beer mugs, our tonkatsu arrived. Since the tonkatsu came as a set meal, which it usually does in Japan, we also got rice, pickles, cabbage slaw and grated daikon radish. The tonkatsu pork cutlet was, just as advertised, nicely fatty and soft, as well as the breading crunchy. A nice thing with tonkatsu is that it, when done properly, lacks almost any excess oil. So given the relative healthiness of the sides, it doesn’t feel that bad to eat. Despite being a couple of hundred grams of deep-fried fatty pork. Wako’s tonkatsu is a really nice one and in my mind well worth a visit.

Price ($$) and website
We paid roughly 2500 yen a person with premium pork tonkatsu set meals and a beer. Website with sample menu in English (scroll down to Kyoto and then Wako JR Isetan for address): click here.


Next place to enjoy tonkatsu was, as mentioned above, the legendary Maisen or Mai-Sen. We went to their outlet close to Tokyo Station in Daimaru shopping mall, located on the 12th floor. Bonus trivia for this place is that the view from the restaurant floor’s restrooms is quite spectacular. We went quite late, so we could snap a few sneaky restroom pictures since no one else was there.

Bathroom views from the restaurant floor of Tokyo Daimaru shopping mall.

Anyway, the food. As per usual, we ordered a round of beers and a set meal each, opposed to Wako, this time with fillet instead of loin, meaning slightly less fatty meat and also a slightly smaller amount. I think it was 100 grams of fillet instead of 150 grams of loin, for the same price. The tonkatsu was served with rice, miso soup and cabbage slaw with a tasty lemony yuzu dressing. Once again, the breaded pork was not at all oily from the deep-frying. The meat was slightly less juicy compared to Wako, but that did not really matter as the crust was so crunchy and delicious. It actually felt more balanced than with the premium high fat content-pork tonkatsu at Wako, since it was almost overwhelming with both fatty pork and being deep-fried.



Katsusando from Maisen. Tonkatsu in white toast bread. Good stuff.

Maisen’s katsusando – tonkatsu sandwich at Tokyo Foodshow
Another thing we tried and that you probably should too if you like tonkatsu is Maisen’s katsusando. Katsusando is a tonkatsu sandwich, which means sliced cold tonkatsu in a white bread sandwich with some tonkatsu sauce spread on. We had Maisen’s katsusando that we bought at Tokyo Foodshow in Shibuya, a whole floor of food where different outlets sell their different types of food and where you can both pick up take-away as well as dine in at a couple of communal stand up tables.

Price ($$+) and website
Maisen is slightly more expensive that for instance Wako, and we paid about 1600 yen a person for one of the cheaper set meals on the menu. Maisen’s website, only in Japanese. Address (google maps link).

B-Mobile visitor sim card


I used B-Mobile’s Visitor sim card for surfing on the go while in Japan recently. Conveniently you can pick it up as you arrive in Japan, or order it to your hotel so it’s waiting for you when you check in (as I did).

Just a note, this is not sponsored in any way. We just very much enjoyed the easiness to order and pay the sim card online, to have it delivered to our hotel, and that it worked really well during the trip. 🙂

Usually when I travel, I try to find a way to have internet on the move. Since about 7-8 years back I’ve been purchasing local sim cards where possible, to avoid expensive roaming and to only be able to surf the web without wifi access. I want to be able to use maps, google restaurants I’m outside to see if they’re good, or just translate stuff. Or maybe post a picture or two on Instagram. 🙂

B-Mobile Visitor Sim Card
Anyway, before leaving Japan I googled how to solve this usual travel problem of mine and found B-mobile and their “b-mobile VISITOR SIM, 5GB, 21days”. We were in Japan for 19 days, so 21 days sounded like a good amount of days, and 5 GB like it would probably last if combined with a bit of wifi-surfing.

Price
The price is 3480 yen, something like $30, which I found reasonable.

Convenient pick up
The nicest thing is that you can order it free of charge to the accomodation of your choice. You can also pick it up in the airport, but that did not work for us since they had limited opening hours and there was an extra charge for airport pick ups. We opted to have our delivered to our hotel, which it was.

We picked it up on check in, installed it in our phones (it took a little bit of work, but there were good instructions with the card) and that was it. We were connected, and both of us had remaining credit when we departed Japan 19 days later.

Here is a link to their website where you can order the sim card (nope, no comission for me 🙂 )